blackberry nut bread

March 19, 2015

blackberry nut bread

My daughter Rebekah has always loved baking. Perhaps it’s because she comes from a long line of bakers. My grandmother made 9 loaves of bread every Saturday in her farm kitchen. My mother loved baking. My sisters bake. I’ve got the baking gene. So she comes by it honestly, and she’s a good baker and only got better with a short stint at Blackbird Baking Co. last summer. So in her spare time in residence at UNBC she bakes, naturally. She fired up this blackberry nut bread inspired by engrained last week and sent me the photo and a full report. Yowzah! Her great-grandmother has to be proud.

bekah and g-grandma

Rebekah with her great-grandmother and brother, Joshua, on the farm

2 1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 cup spelt flour

1/2 cup steel cut oats, toasted

1 1/2 tsp salt

3/4 tsp active dry yeast

1/2 cup blackberries

1 cup toasted nuts

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 3/4 cup water

Lightly toast oats in a dry saucepan over medium heat, let cool. In a large bowl combine flours, yeast, salt, and toasted oats.  Add blackberries and nuts. Add water and maple syrup.  Stir with your hand or a wooden spoon until just incorporated.  Dough should be sticky and shaggy.  If not add a tablespoon of bread flour or water until it is wet and sticky.

Cover bowl with a tea towel and let sit for 12 – 18 hours at a warm room temperature.  Overnight on your stove top is a good way to go.

After 12 – 18 hours, dust your work surface generously with flour.  Scrape your dough out onto your surface in one piece – the dough should be loose and sticky.  Sprinkle with a bit of flour and then fold the dough over on itself twice.  Cover with a tea towel and let sit for 15 more minutes.

Dust your hands with flour, making sure your work surface is still generously coated, and then lift the edges of your dough and tuck them into the centre until the dough is a round shape.  Turn the dough over and gently roll it into a ball.  Take your tea towel and generously coat it with flour.  Place the dough into the towel with seam (tucked edges) facing down and then dust the top with more flour.  Fold the towel loosely over the dough and place it in a warm location.

30 minutes before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven with cast iron pot to 450 degrees.  Let heat for 30 minutes. While heating the cast iron, put a baking tray or deep pan underneath. Just before closing the oven to bake, dump a bunch of water into the tray. This will create steam allowing the bread to rise before the crust forms. Take pot from oven.

Slide your hand under the towel and turn over.  Uncover and quickly/gently/safely turn dough over into the pot so that the seam is facing up.  It may be a bit messy but that’s okay.  Right before you put it in the oven, slash the dough cutting at an angle with the surface of the dough. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes.  Then uncover and bake for another 10 minutes, or until loaf is the color you like.  Lift bread out of pot and let cool on cooling rack. One way to check if it’s done is to knock the bottom. If it sounds hollow, you should be good.

Fight the urge to cut the bread before it’s cooled!!! Slicing the bread too early will result in a doughy/mushy inside. Give it lots of love and it will be happy bread!

snacking granola clusters

February 21, 2015

snacking granola

Unbridled credit for this recipe (and photo) goes to my daughter, Rebekah (and of course the original blog, The Gouda Life, from whence the recipe came). Bekah is home for reading week and craving all things healthy and non-residence. This snacking granola is perfect because it’s, of course, healthy – full of dates, chia seeds, nuts, and oats – but it’s also both crunchy and chewy, sweet and salty, nutty and fruity, a breakfast and a snack – all in one.

6-8 Mejool dates, pitted and chopped (and/or dried figs)

1 cup maple syrup

1/2 stick cinnamon

1/2 cup cranberries

2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil / virgin coconut oil

2 tbsps chia seeds

2 tbsps amaranth

1 tbsp flax seeds

1/2 cup raw pepitas

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 cup mixed nuts (pecans, almonds, cashews)

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the chopped dates, cranberries, cinnamon stick and syrup in a small pot over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Turn the heat down to a simmer and let the mixture bubble away for 8-10 minutes. By then, you should be able to use the back of a fork or spoon to mush it all together. It should be similar in texture to applesauce with some extra liquid from the syrup seeping out. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, mix together all the other ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the slightly cooled syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and stir everything together with a spatula until all the oats/seeds/nuts are covered in the syrup. Turn 1/2 the into a large, high-sided cake pan (I used a 15” x 10” x 2” rectangular baking dish) and pack the mixture down as hard and evenly as you can. Add the rest of the oat mixture and press into the pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove and cool for 20 minutes.

Break up the mixture into large clusters and place back in the pan. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes for crispy-edged clusters.


February 17, 2013


Did you know that in UK, Ireland and Australia, a flapjack is a sweet tray-baked oat bar made from rolled oats, butter, brown sugar and syrup, and that in Canada, the US, and South Africa a flapjack is a pancake?  Well, these flapjacks are pancakes but made from rolled oats, cornmeal, and brown sugar drenched with 100% golden Canadian maple syrup. So I guess in a way they are the best of both. The recipe hails from Rebekah’s friend Helen for which I’m very grateful. They would be fabulous on a canoe trip, where Rebekah and Helen met, as you don’t need eggs, butter, or milk. But I just had them this morning, and they are equally tasty in downtown Toronto on a sunny Sunday morning with a good stiff cappuccino in hand.

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup fine or medium grind cornmeal or corn flour

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tbsps baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup soy milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup wild blueberries, optional

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Remove 1 cup of dry ingredients into a second mixing bowl. To the 1 cup dry ingredients, add 1 cup of soy milk and 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Mix well. Add blueberries if you so desire. Add a little more soy milk if the batter is too thick. Cook on a pre-heated griddle and serve piping hot with maple syrup or homemade marmalade. Put the rest of the dry ingredients in a airtight container for next Sunday.

blueberry muffins

July 16, 2012

vegan blueberry muffins, babycakes, vgourmet

Where I am in Ontar-i-o the wild blueberries are in season. Every year I buy a basket or two and freeze those sweet little babies to use throughout the year. They are tart and tangy and full of anti-oxidants, which we could all use a lot more of. In honour of my mom, who used to always make blueberry muffins with sugary-lemon topping, I pulled out the babycakes cookbook and tried their vegan version. Fab-fab-fab-u-lous. What better way to start the day in mid-July when the blueberry bushes are dripping with nature’s bounty?

2 1/4 cups whole spelt flour

2 tsps baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup coconut oil

2/3 cup agave nectar

2/3 cup rice milk

2 tsps pure vanilla extract

1 cup fresh wild blueberries

4 tsps organic cane sugar

2 tsps organic lemon zest

vegan blueberry muffins, babycakes, vgourmet

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the oil, agave nectar, rice milk, and vanilla to the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is smooth. Gently fold in the blueberries just until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Combine the cane sugar and lemon zest. Fill each muffin cup to almost the top. Sprinkle each muffin with a generous helping of the sugar/zest combo. Bake the muffins on the centre rack for 22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out cleanly.

Let the muffins stand in the tin for 15 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack and cool completely. Serve warm on a mellow Saturday morning with a good cup of java.


February 29, 2012

marmalade, vgourmet, vegan breakfast, Ruth Richardson

We’re just back from a trip to Tulum on the Mayan Riveria in Mexico – v:gourmet heading south to discover all sorts of new vegan treats. The first morning is always the most delicious. Waking up to the sound of bird song, and the wind in the palms. That first footstep onto the warm sand. The wind and the cold and the snow quickly evaporating into the clear blue sky. We had breakfast on a terrace overlooking the beach – fresh orange juice, organic mint tea, a plate of fresh fruit, and this housemade marmalade with toast. Of course the marmalade was different each morning depending on which fruit they needed to use up. One morning papaya. The next pineapple. This recipe is so simple, verstatile, and tasty, and it will infuse your mornings with the spirit of the south.

fruit, pineapples, papayas, or oranges

equal amount of organic cane sugar (for 1 large pineapple for example use about 2.5 cups sugar

a little lemon or lime juice (juice from 1 or 2 lemons or limes)

herbs if desired, mint or lavender

Peel and core the fruit. Chop as finely as possible or to your desired consistency. Put the fruit in a large heavy-bottomed pot with the sugar. Add the lemon or lime juice and the herbs if using and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pot, and let simmer for 1/2 hour, or until the fruit is tender. Take off the lid, turn up the heat and boil until the mixture thickens. Remove the marmalade form the heat, discard the herbs, and let cool. Transfer to a glass jar and keep refrigerated.

spiced apple butter

January 27, 2012

This apple butter might be more aptly named sweet spiced apple butter but of course that depends on the kind of apples you use. Macintosh will give you much sweeter butter than granny smith for instance, but use what you like and don’t worry about it too much. It’s perfect on a whole-grain toast in the morning. And it would be a lovely accompaniment to breakfast quinoa or oats just to mix things up a bit. It’s so tasty in fact that I’m now not sure why people put “normal” butter on their toast. But then again, I’ve come to wonder about a lot of things people eat. Just sayin’.

6 organic apples, either the same or different kinds, peeled, cored, and cut into rough chunks

2 star anise pods

6 cloves, whole, or 1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 cup water or apple cider

1/2 cup organic cane sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

Place apples, spices, and water or cider in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil on high heat. After about 5 minutes or so, turn heat down to medium, add the sugar and lemon juice and let bubble away until the apples are very tender, about 25 minutes. If you need to add a bit more water or cider, do so a little bit at a time but you want your butter thick so don’t add too much.

Once cooked through and the apples are mushy, turn the heat off and let cool. Remove the star anise and cloves. Purée the mixture in a blender or food processor. Or if  you like it chunky, simply mash it with a potato masher until you’re happy with the consistency. Keep it in the fridge or freeze it for later use.

zucchini bread

January 4, 2012

Bekah’s friend Emma came to visit from Massachusetts after Christmas with a gift bag in hand from Kripalu, a yoga retreat centre where her mom works. The gift bag contained lots of goodies including the Kripalu breakfast cookbook. I found this recipe for zucchini bread which makes me happy because my mom used to make zucchini bread all the time when I was younger but I haven’t had a homemade version in ages. I increased the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg because I think it can hold it. The rest is straightforward and easy peasy on a Saturday morning for breakfast. It would also be good for afternoon tea.

1/3 cup flaxseed meal (this is simply flaxseed ground into a fine powder)

1/2 cup water

2 1/4 cups grated zucchini (about two medium zucchini)

1/3 cup sunflower oil

1/3 cup apple sauce

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup pastry flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 tsps cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8 x 4″ loaf pan.

In a small bowl, combine flaxseed meal and water and let soak for a few minutes.

Combine zucchini (if the grated zucchini is very wet, place it in a strainer and press gently with a towel to remove some of the excess moisture) and soaked flaxseed meal in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, applesauce, and vanilla. Add to the zucchini mixture and stir to combine. Add brown sugar and mix until nearly dissolved.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Add to the zucchini mixture and mix well. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake until the bread is well browned, edges begin to shrink form the sides of the pan, and loaf is firm when pressed, about 1 1/2 hours. This is a moist loaf. When you insert a toothpick in the centre and pull it out, it should come out not quite clean an dhave moist crumbs stuck to it.

Let cool in pan. To remove from pan, turn pan over and tap lightly to release. Slice and serve.

Packed full of fresh berries, these muffins are a perfect Sunday morning breakfast to accompany the sweet, aromatic flavours of  cinnamon earl grey tea. The cornmeal adds a nice crunch and the lemon zest sugar has always been a long-time favourite since my mom first started dousing her blueberry muffins with this zingy zangy topping. And they are so easy to throw together you don’t have to worry about getting up early. Sleep in and still get them in the oven by noon. Oh sorry, that’s someone else’s life … but the point still stands. 30 minutes start to finish.  On your mark. Get set. Go.

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cups cornmeal

3/4 cups cane sugar

3 tsps baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 1/4 cups almond, rice, or soy milk

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 cups sunflower or safflower oil

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups berries (fresh or frozen; if frozen don’t thaw)

2 tbsps cane sugar

zest from 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your muffin tin with either paper baking cups or oil and flour.

Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking power, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Add apple cider vinegar to the soy milk and let sit for a few minutes until milk curdles slightly. Once curdled, add oil and vanilla.

Add wet ingredients to dry and gently fold mixture together. Then add berries and gently fold into batter.

In a small bowl combine lemon zest and cane sugar.

Fill muffin cups to about 3/4 full with muffin batter, and then sprinkle with sugar/zest combo.

Bake on the middle rack for about 15 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

I was chatting with my new friend and colleague, Meaghan Calcari from San Francisco, and she mentioned that she has quinoa every morning for breakfast. Don’t get me wrong – I love my dulse in the morning and will stick with it – but I thought for a change it might be nice to try something different. So taking my inspiration from Meaghan I cooked some up this morning topped with maple syrup, and toasted almonds. You could also add dried cranberries, and a dusting of cinnamon. This super-food is super yummy!

Super-food? For those of you that don’t know, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is really the superhero of grains. Actually, technically it’s not a grain but the seed of the Goosefoot plant. It’s used as a grain and substituted for grains because of its grain-like characteristics. The Inca have cultivated it in the South American Andes since, oh, about 3,000 B.C. In fact the ancient Incas called quinoa the “mother grain” and revered it as sacred. That alone makes it a super-food, but alongside being sacred it’s easy to prepare, has a great nutty flavour, and is packed full of protein, amino acids, calcium and iron. Need I say more? Eat up!

1/2 cup coconut milk

about 1 cup water

1 cup quinoa

1/2 tsp. fine-grain sea salt

1 1/2 tsp. poppy seeds

grated zest of 1 lemon

1 1/2 tbsp. maple syrup or to taste

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

dried cranberries

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the coconut milk, water, and quinoa to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer the mixture, stirring often, for 5 to 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is creamy but still retains some texture. If the liquid in the pan is absorbed before the quinoa has fully cooked, stir in more water, 1 tbsp or so at a time, until done. Stir in the poppy seeds, lemon zest, and maple syrup. Serve hot in individual bowls topped with the toasted almonds. Serves 4.

greek tofu scramble

April 17, 2011

I had a dream last night that I made scrambled tofu for breakfast. I know, not very exciting but it was very realistic – one of those dreams that you’re not sure if it was a dream or it actually happened. Only problem is I was really confused about whether to use a blender, what to to put in the blender with the tofu, whether it should be sweet or savoury, and who would want to eat it. I woke up, realized it was a dream (phew – bye bye confusion), and decided to take the bull by the horns and whip some up no fuss no muss. Delish. Easy. No blender. So good in fact it might just become a new ritual on Sunday mornings.

1 block of firm tofu

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tomato, chopped

8 olives, pitted and chopped

handful of arugula

2 tsps oregano

small chunk of feta (optional)

sea salt and pepper

Drain the tofu and crumble into a small bowl and set aside. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add onion and saute until soft. Add the crumbled tofu, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper and saute another couple of minutes.

Add tomatoes, olives, arugula, and oregano and stir until warmed through. Adjust seasoning. Serve on a plate with crumbled feta on top (if using) with a side order of toast.